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Changes in British Society After the World War I

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The World War I continued for four years and was one of the most expensive. This war was much more advanced than any previous wars, as not only had it killed over 16 million men, it had managed to create lasting economic and social changes to British society. Whilst some of these changes can be seen very positively because the war resulted in many developments in medicine and warfare. However, some of these changes can be seen as having caused detrimental effects on British society. This could be because this war had ultimately paved the way for a second war thirty years later. Due to this, it could be argued that the effects of this war had brought about lasting changes to how British society had dealt with moving on from this. Many of these lasting changes may have been the emotions people had to deal with from the war. This is because many children were left without their fathers and had to adapt in different ways. In addition to this, other changes impacted British society due to the war. This included the fact that social life in Britain had changed, women had to run businesses while the men were at war. People all wanted better living standards. There is a key debate as to how impactful the first world war was in bringing about lasting changes to British society. Whereas, some claim that the World War I only brought about temporary changes in British society. This essay will advance the argument that in fact, the first world war did bring about lasting changes in British society. To prove this, I will first explain how it could be argued to a large extent that the World War I had brought about lasting changes in British society. I will do this by explaining how the first world war had impacted the lives of British men who had served during the war to a large extent in which it had affected their masculinity. Secondly, I will explore how the political impact of the war had produced lasting changes such as the fact that new measures had been introduced. This included the fact all men over the age of 21 were able to vote 1918 onwards. Thirdly, I will consider how the World War I impacted social classes. The war introduced full employment measures for all. This meant that many individuals were able to receive income. In addition to this, rationing measures were introduced which impacted and decreased the levels of poverty in Britain by the end of the war.

Struggle for Domestic Masculinity and Women Being Able to Vote

Upon reading ‘Struggle for Domestic Masculinity’ by Jessica Meyer, it became evident that the war had brought about lasting changes to British society. Most men who had survived the war “were left disabled”. This meant that most men were left scarred from their experiences on the frontline from what they experienced and saw. Going back to reality for most of these men was not an option. These men were left psychologically traumatised and British society during this time was unable to recognise this as a disability. Psychological trauma is mental and not physical and so people were unable to ‘see their evidence of war service and their willingness to sacrifice themselves”. This meant that the number of those left with psychological disabilities in Britain had ultimately increased. Their trauma had been left untreated and was never recognised as a real struggle and illness. These men were “abandoned” by British society. The first world war can be seen as bringing about lasting changes in British society as it had created a community that neglected men with mental disabilities and only emphasised the “mourning and comfort for the bereaved” rather than appreciating and celebrating the men who served in the war and survived. It is evident that many of these men felt isolated and abandoned not only from their family that they had returned to who did not share the same experiences as them at war but also from the government. Meyer explains that the government “failed to provide enough resources for the retraining of the disabled”. This meant that many of these had to rely on independent voluntary organisations who were able to provide them with the treatment and shelter they needed. Men who had experienced the traumatic events of World War I were negatively affected – both financially and mentally. This damage was something the government did not take into account and therefore, they were deprived of any support. This had lasting changes in British society as they were forced to depend on other private voluntary organisations. The families were also negatively affected by this lack of support from the government for the men that went to war. However, it may be argued to a small extent that this was only a temporary change caused by World War I. This may be due to the fact after this war, doctors were unaware of emotional trauma and so doctors were then able to “to study the emotional as opposed to the physical stress of war”. Although it only until 1975, doctors were able recognise the mental impact of war on men. This means that, although after the first world war, many men dealt with psychological trauma, which meant they were no longer dependent on the government, it had opened up opportunities for doctors to begin to find ways to help them. Thus, it could be argued that the first world war brought about a lasting change in allowing doctors to help those with psychological illnesses.

In addition to this another in which the war could be seen as having brought about lasting changes to British society is because, after the war, roles within the family had been largely impacted. Men had been away at war for a long period and so the women in the family had to take up both roles. Women started to seek employment and ultimately had become the ‘breadwinner’ of the family since the husband was away at war. This meant that when men returned from the war, their “masculine roles they had anticipated inhabiting upon their return to civilian life”. This is because men were away for four years and so the home had changed immensely. Many men who served in the war felt distanced from their families and the life they lived before leaving for war. Society in Britain had immensely changed whilst men were at war over the four years. Whilst men were away at the frontline, women began to take up the jobs in place of their husbands. In 1918, women over the age of 30 with a certain qualification were allowed to now vote. The war had paved the way and allowed for new opportunities for women that were once only reserved for men. The war had ultimately allowed for women to now have jobs outside of the home. Therefore, it could be argued that the war brought about lasting changes in British society because it meant that women were no longer tied to their homes and having the task of bringing up their children. Women were now given this new independence, giving a “boost to demands for women’s emancipation”.

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The Economic Impact of World War I

To a large extent, it can be proven the World War I did bring about lasting economic changes to British society. This is because it had initiated many developments in medicine. Due to the war, modern surgery was able to develop, whereby military hospitals allowed for experiments in medical procedures to take place. This meant that hospitals and treatments were able to develop. In addition to this, as many came back from war with injuries and disfiguration, hospitals were now able to provide treatment and develop their knowledge. As hospitals developed, the death rate slightly decreased. Blood banks had also developed after the discovery in 1914 that blood could be prevented from clotting. Therefore, due to this, it could be argued to a large extent the first world war brought about lasting changes as it led to key developments that were essential to society and the well-being of civilians.

The Pity of War

After reading Ferguson’s ‘The Pity of War’, it became evident that lasting changes were brought on by the war due to several reasons. This may be because the first world war had such a powerful impact on British society that these changes were put in place to prevent another war. Ferguson explains that schools had placed such an impact on the war to such an extent that schools would dedicate the “memory of those who had died in the war”. He explains that he felt as if he was “educated literally inside a war memorial”. From this, I can infer that British society had brought about lasting change in British society. This is because to this day, the war is still remembered. November 11th marks the end of the first world war and the day an armistice was signed between Germany and the allies, calling for an end to the war. The fact that still a century later, the lives lost, and the legacy of the war is still remembered and honored enforces the fact that this war had such a profound influence on millions of people. This means that the first world war brought about a lasting change in ensuring British society remembers this war and remember those who lost their lives fighting for their country.

Class and status

To a certain extent, it could be argued that the first world war had brought about lasting changes in British society. This is because after reading a journal in which B.A Waites wrote, it became evident that the war was able to overcome and change societal structures that existed. After the war, society had improved, allowing for the poor to live better lives due to the government “raising the wages of unskilled workers” and developments in healthcare. Waites explains that this was primarily the result of the first world war as it had allowed for the “development of the economy and society”. This means that war had affected British society in a positive that had opened up opportunities for many individuals. To further support this claim, a survey produced by Bowley and Hogg verified the fact that the war had bought about lasting changes in improving the wellbeing of others. This is because the “consequences of the war for the labour market had reduced levels of primary poverty by more than half”.

Conclusion

To conclude, although it could be argued to a large extent that in fact due to the World War I, a lot had changed in British society. The war opened up countless opportunities for women that were once restricted only to men. In addition to this, mental illness was recognised as a real issue in which doctors now can understand and treat. Perhaps the biggest change is that military power is far less significant in European politics than it was a century ago. There is little or no appetite for using force to achieve political goals. It could be argued to a lesser extent that some temporary adjustments were put in place in British society due to the war. This included the fact that the war had improved the working-class standards of living. In addition to this, technology and propaganda had become an essential element through war. Ultimately, the World War I had “altered the relative economic and social positions of major groups in society”.

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Changes in British Society After the World War I. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/changes-in-british-society-after-the-world-war-i/
“Changes in British Society After the World War I.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/changes-in-british-society-after-the-world-war-i/
Changes in British Society After the World War I. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/changes-in-british-society-after-the-world-war-i/> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2023].
Changes in British Society After the World War I [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/changes-in-british-society-after-the-world-war-i/
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